San Diego — As the U.S. government built its latest stretch of border fencing, Mexico sent its own message by placing remains of the Berlin Wall just steps away.
A porous 3-ton stretch of concrete lies between a bullring, a lighthouse and the border wall, which extends to the Pacific Ocean.
“Let this be a lesson to build a society that tears down walls and builds bridges of solidarity and understanding, always seeking the common good, social justice, freedom and brotherhood,” reads under the relic of the Cold War, a phrase attributed to the mayor of Tijuana Montserrat Caballero under the title: “A World Without Walls.”
For Caballero, like the 2 million inhabitants of Tijuana, the border wall with the United States is something personal as well as political, it is part of an essence of the city… and of life. She considers herself a migrant after having to move from the city of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, with her mother when she was 2 years old, fleeing the “vicious cycle of poverty, beatings and illiteracy.” ”.
The facility was inaugurated on August 13 in a ceremony with Caballero and Marcelo Ebrard, the former Secretary of Foreign Affairs who is now one of the main candidates for the presidency.
Caballero, 41, is married to an Iranian who became a U.S. citizen and lives in the United States. She and her 9-year-old son used to cross the border between Tijuana and San Diego.
Since last June, Caballero has lived in a military barracks in Tijuana, arguing that he took action in the face of credible threats against him that were brought to his attention by US intelligence officials and under the recommendation of the Mexican federal government. Weeks ago, his bodyguard survived an assassination attempt.
Caballero said she doesn’t know who wants to kill her, but she suspects retaliation after seizing weapons from violent criminals besieging her city.
All over the world there are pieces of the Berlin Wall after its fall in 1989, as collectors have placed them in hotels, schools, transit stations and parks. Marcus Cline, who makes commercials and other digital productions in Los Angeles, needed a place for his objects and found an ally in the mayor of Tijuana.
“What happens in Tijuana particularly?” Knight wondered. “How many families have left blood, effort and their own lives to cross the wall? The social and political conflict is different from what is related to the Berlin Wall, but it is a wall after all. And a wall will always be a sphinx that divides and bleeds nations.”
President Joe Biden issued an executive order during his first day in office to stop the construction of the border wall, ending an emblematic work of his predecessor Donald Trump. But his administration has continued with small projects that had already been awarded contracts, including replacing an 18-foot-high (5.5-meter) double-layer wall in San Diego with a 30-foot (9.1-meter) barrier and an extension of 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) towards the sea.
The wall crosses Friendship Park, a cross-border place inaugurated by then first lady Pat Nixon in 1971 that symbolizes binational ties. For decades, families separated by immigration status found themselves on the other side of a fence of barbed wire and cyclone mesh. It is a precious and festive destination for tourists and residents of Mexico.
During a festival in 2005, David “The Human Cannonball” Smith Jr. showed his passport in Tijuana as he climbed down a barrel and was shot over the wall into a net on the beach as U.S. border agents looked on. In 2019, artist Lizbeth De La Cruz Santana covered the side of the wall from Tijuana with paintings of adults who came to the United States illegally as children and were deported. Visitors who pointed their cell phones at the barcodes were taken to a website where they told their stories in the first person.
Cline said he was rejected at the White House when he tried to deliver the Berlin Wall relic to Trump and then carried it across the country until he found a suitable location. He said the fragment has found a “second life” in a Tijuana park near colorful paintings on the border that express his stance on politics and immigration.
The U.S. government has gradually restricted park access from San Diego over the past 15 years at a state park that once hosted cross-border yoga classes, masses and music festivals. After lengthy consideration, President Biden’s administration agreed to keep the wall at 18 feet (5.5 meters) high for a small section where some access will be allowed.
Dan Watman of Friends of Friendship Park, an organization that advocates for cross-border access to the park, said the 60-foot (18.3-meter) section that will remain at a lower elevation is just a symbolic gesture. “The park on the Mexican side has become kind of one-sided,” he declared.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it anticipates replacing the two-layer barrier by November and that the taller wall under construction “will provide much-needed improvements.”
The installation of the Berlin Wall has been the subject of different reactions.
Sandra Flores, a tourist from the port of Mazatlan, compared the Berlin Wall to the border fence.
“Here it is a little less strong than in Germany, but it is a wall that divides nations, lives, social, economic and other life related to the United States.”
Lydia Vanasse, who works in the financial sector in San Diego and lives in Tijuana, said the relic took her back to when she was 20, when the Soviet empire fell and Germans were finally allowed to move freely.
“San Diego and Tijuana are sister cities,” he commented. “The wall separates us, but we are more united in many ways. “If there wasn’t the wall, it would be prettier.”
Direct criticism of any American policy or president is unusual.
The mayor of Tijuana said the need for the United States to reinforce its borders is undeniable and she has close relationships with American officials, such as Ken Salazar, the ambassador to Mexico. She said Salazar asked her to evict migrants who set up camp hoping to gain asylum on U.S. soil and blocked access to a border crossing into the United States in 2022. She followed her recommendations.
Any failure at the border is the collective responsibility of nations, he said.
“We are not against the border. We are against violence, we are against the disunity of families, we are against division, and the wall represents this,” he declared.